It will remain with us for ages to come and fester like some mysterious disease to remind us of our shameful lust, greed, nonchalance and brutality with which we treated our key export earners.
Those of us who covered the tragedy of Rana Plaza a year ago will never forget the screams of the workers stuck inside that hunk of a collapsed building.
The images are so raw and vivid -- the concrete slabs impaling the heart of the nation; the crumpled bodies hanging high on the ground and being ignored by the helpless rescuers who cannot reach there; the corpses piling on the ground -- one particular corpse looking grotesquely bloated because it has simply been squashed into a two-feet chunk of meat; the helplessness of the fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers all running towards the collapsed building with pictures of their loved ones in hand; the long nights filled with terrible cries for help coming from the bottom of a hell. It was a terrible syncopation of death and disaster.
But Rana Plaza will remain with us for many other reasons too. It will remind us of how a nation came together at a crucial time to help humanity. There are snapshots that will keep on making us proud – the hospitals, Enam Hospital in particular, and the doctors scrambling to save every broken soul carted in, the thousands of volunteers – simple students, workers, rickshawpullers -- who actually defied death to reach every nook and corner of the concrete jungle even before the trained rescuers could go in and drag out the trapped ones; the pharmaceutical companies rushing medicines to the hospitals free of cost; the big infrastructure companies mobilizing their cranes and equipment which otherwise were not available with the fire department to pull apart the slabs; the army officers and jawans working night and day with their equipment. The scenes are so many and one cannot chart them all in a single write-up.
Rana Plaza will also stick to our memory because of the courage and desperation the trapped workers demonstrated. The men and women, their hands and legs sandwiched under huge slabs and pillars, asking rescuers to piece them out, and they were. Those who performed the job of severing their limbs were no trained persons and yet they held their nerves.
Rana Plaza will remain us with us because it was the single incident that really shook up the world's worst sweat industry. Reforms were carried out following the tragedy, though not fully to our satisfaction; an inspection system was put in place; the heartless attitudes of the owners were softened, though not to the extent that could make us happy, and general safety standards were improved.
Those more than 1,100 souls lost under the rubble of Rana Plaza have actually jolted the remaining 16 crore people from slumber. We finally learned to see.
This is also why Rana Plaza will remain with us forever.